Publishing photos of the "Cow Head" protest was "detrimental to public interest" and akin to inciting racial tensions.?
The Home Ministry has drawn up a new set of comprehensive guidelines masked as 'self-regulation' for an already restricted newspaper industry - but it is fighting back.
The draft was unveiled by senior ministry officials at a meeting on Monday with unwitting print media representatives in Kuala Lumpur.
Although a full day of discussions had been scheduled, the meeting broke down about noon, in the face of protests and heated debate by the media representatives.
Among complaints raised was the absence of representation from the Malaysian Press Institute and the National Union of Journalists .
The participants also said they were not given prior notice that the guidelines were to be discussed. They, however, have agreed to study the draft before another meeting is held.
Government representatives included Home Ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam, his deputy in charge of security Ahmad Faud Abdul Aziz and publications control and Al-Quran text division secretary Abu Hassan Dahaman.
One participant claimed that the guidelines are an attempt to force the media's hand to accept the provisions as 'joint principles' and thus absolve the ministry of blame for tightening censorship.
"It is like giving us a noose, which we have to tighten ourselves. Previously, we could still challenge the ministry's restrictions because these were made unilaterally," the source told Malaysiakini.
Given the evolving nature of society, several participants felt the narrow boundaries being set in the draft guidelines would be detrimental to the news industry.
The draft covers two main categories - undesirable material and banned material. It elaborates on these over 13 pages and apply to articles, photos, documents, comics, magazines and advertisements.
The provisions were panned for their ambiguity, particularly on the topic of maintaining public order and materials that are against national interests.
Materials that "encourage actions which can cause disorder (pecah keamanan)" or are against "the public interest" are considered "undesirable".
The draft defines "undesirable" materials as including "news, articles or information that is exaggerated" and which can "confuse the public".
The controversial cow-head protest was raised as a case in point, with the ministry claiming that publishing photos of the protest was "detrimental to public interest" and akin to inciting racial tensions.
However, media participants disputed this, vigorously arguing that the incident and its visuals had merited publication....more.
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